Deli worker sacked over oven cleaner

A deli worker at a Co Meath service station was unfairly dismissed for taking two spoonfuls of oven cleaner in a coffee cup home with her.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal ruled that Madara Cebina receive €13,180 from XL Fuels Group Ltd after finding the Latvian worker was unfairly dismissed.

The owner of XL Fuels Group is oil distributor Michael Curran, aged 47, of Curran Oil, Oldcastle, Co Meath.

Ms Cebina told the tribunal that she put two spoonfuls of oven cleaner from the tub used in the store into a takeaway cup which she brought home with her.

She took a lift home with her supervisor and told her what was in the cup. A short time later she said that her supervisor phoned and said that the owner wanted to know what she had in the cup.

Ms Cebina said she then received a call from an administrative assistant at the firm, who told her that she should not report for work. Ms Cebina said that she asked her colleague did she mean the following day or forever, and her colleague responded ‘forever’.

The worker said that she asked if it was because of the oven cleaner, and after a pause her colleague agreed that it was.

Ms Cebina offered to pay for the cleaner and told the tribunal that she was “very shocked”.

The firm contended that Ms Cebina requested her P45 and left of her own accord.

The woman began work at the deli in June 2010 and remained working there until October 2013.

After the conversation with the administrative assistant, Ms Cebina contacted the firm for her P45 and collected it the following Tuesday.

Ms Cebina’s supervisor gave evidence and explained that staff members could take tea and coffee free of charge at work, but nothing else.

The firm’s administrative assistant told the hearing that the owner came to her office and asked if she could do without Ms Cebina on the roster if he took her off.

The admin assistant confirmed to Ms Cebina that she was being taken off the roster and agreed that it was because of the oven cleaner.

The owner did not appear at the hearing to give evidence.

In its determination, the tribunal found it was clear that the firm, through its owner, had made a decision to remove Ms Cebina from the roster for the foreseeable future without clarifying to her, as was its responsibility, that she would be subject to an investigative or disciplinary meeting.

It found the dismissal was “unfair”.

It awarded Ms Cebina €12,500 for unfair dismissal and €680 in relation to two weeks’ pay under the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act.

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